Defense Management:

Issues in Contracting for Lodging and Temporary Office Space at MacDill Air Force Base

GAO-04-296: Published: Jan 27, 2004. Publicly Released: Jan 27, 2004.

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Since the September 11, 2001, attacks and the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, thousands of National Guard and Reserve members have been activated and mobilized to military installations across the country. Some installations, like MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, where more than 3,000 reservists have been mobilized, have had to arrange for off-base lodging in local hotels and apartment buildings. In addition, MacDill, which serves as U.S. Central Command headquarters, has had to set up temporary office space for staffs of coalition partner nations. Public concerns have been raised about these arrangements. GAO was asked to review (1) the extent to which MacDill used cost-effective measures to provide off-base lodging for reservists and (2) whether a contract providing office space for coalition partners was adequately managed to control costs.

During recent mobilizations, MacDill contracting officials used two practices that effectively reduced the overall cost of off-base lodging for reservists on extended temporary duty to below that allowed by the General Services Administration's (GSA) lodging rate. Officials used a simplified acquisition procedure--Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA)--to obtain prices that were at or below the maximum allowable GSA rate of $93 per day for Tampa, Florida. MacDill officials obtained daily lodging rates of $71 to $93 per unit for two-bedroom apartments. The BPAs also provided greater flexibility in vacating units without incurring penalties. In addition, MacDill officials reduced per person lodging costs further by implementing a roomsharing policy for personnel at certain ranks. When two reservists shared a two-bedroom unit (about 600 reservists), the cost dropped by up to 55 percent of the daily GSA rate. Overall, during fiscal year 2003, MacDill reported that it saved about $12.6 million using these practices. Our review of local rental costs showed that BPA prices were similar to those paid by corporate entities for comparable lodging units, but were lower on a perperson basis because of lodging sharing arrangements. From project initiation to settlement of the contractor's claim, the Coalition Village II contract suffered from questionable acceptance of the winning offer, poor record keeping, undocumented contracting decisions, and changes to contract requirements that were not properly coordinated with contracting officials. Although MacDill officials determined that the winning offer was received on time, only the first page of the proposal was received by the established deadline. Contract costs for the project, which was implemented under tight time constraints, increased by more than $367,000 over the winning offer of $142,755. However, due to the absence of proper documentation in the contract files, we were unable to fully assess the basis for additional costs paid to the contractor or the extent to which costs might have been avoided or minimized.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to direct the Commander of the Air Mobility Command to emphasize to MacDill personnel the importance of adhering to sound contract management procedures that exist to protect the interests of the government. Communications should reemphasize that contract files should be properly maintained and only authorized personnel should initiate changes to contract requirements, even during time sensitive procurements. In addition to contracting officials, such communications should also be provided to contractors, base customers of contracting services, and contract support personnel.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Mobility Command (AMC) developed and implemented a training package for AMC contracting officials, customers of contracting services, and contracting support personnel. Training was developed on contracting authorities, customer training on purchasing, roles and responsibilities, late bids and proposals, quality assurance personnel training, post-award orientation, contract modifications, negotiation memorandums, contract payments, claims, documentation, and GAO relations. The training was provided to personnel at the 12 Air Force bases assigned to the Air Mobility Command, including MacDill Air Force Base.

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